George Huguely sentenced to 26 years in Yeardley Love murder
On the day after George Huguely was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love, the feeling around the families and the Charlottesville community is that there really are no winners.
Late Wednesday night, a jury convicted Huguely, the Chevy Chase native and former University of Virginia lacrosse player, of second degree murder and grand larceny. The jury recommended that he be sentenced to 26 years in prison.
"There are no winners in this case," prosecutor David Chapman said after the verdict. "There's nothing but loss everywhere."
At The Nook, the diner that has been a Charlottesville staple for decades, the overwhelming feeling was that of sadness.
"You just feel sorry for both families," Charlottesville resident Nancy Rose said. "I have children and I know how I'd feel if I were in either of their positions.
For students on the Virginia campus, the feeling rings the same, including for Mary Beth Desrosiers and her brother Michael.
"It's just kind of a general feeling of loss that's still present," Mary Beth said.
Michael, who was a freshman in May of 2010 when Love died, says the community is simply happy it's over.
"No one's really happy any of this ever happened, but I guess there's a sense of relief that it's finally come to a conclusion," he said.
Courtroom gasps at verdict
The Wednesday guilty verdict and sentence recommendation in the slaying of his one-time girlfriend Yeardley Love ended one of the most high-profile trials in Charlottesville history.
As he rose out of his chair to learn his fate, Huguely made the sign of the cross. When he heard the jury's conviction, he showed little emotion.
Love's family and friends smiled and cried. Yeardley's mother, Sharon, said her life has been torture without Yeardley.
"It's still with me every day, from sun-up to sundown," she said.
She spoke to the jury, never looking at Huguely.
"I am afraid that I'm forgetting little pieces of her that just..." she said before she broke down into tears.
Love's sister Lexie who had stared at Huguely across the court room for most of the trial, focused on the people who decided his future. She said the death of her sister is devastating.
"There is a huge hole," Lexie Love said. "Nothing's going to fill it, nothing can fill it."
In a statement, Sharon and Lexie said:
"Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but our hearts melt when we remember her. It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize she is not here.
We dread looking back on the events of May 3rd, 2010 and pray for the strength to get through each day. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world. We know heaven has an angel. We would like to thank the Commonwealth and Dave Chapman for his tireless efforts on our behalf.
Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but they melt when we remember her grace. Kindness and compassion...choices that Yeardley made everyday without a second thought. We'd like to thank everyone for their kindness and respect of our privacy during such a difficult time."
Jurors deliberated for a day
In a stunning turn of events, Huguely's parents who had not been able to be present as their son was on trial because they were to testify at his sentencing did not take the stand.
The jury deliberated for about a day before finding Huguely guilty.
He was found not guilty of burglary and first degree murder in commission of a robbery.
Immediately after the verdict, the jurors began the penalty phase of the trial.
Prosecutor Dave Chapman showed the emotions he displayed during closing arguments in asking the jury to sentence Huguely to decades in prison.
Huguely's attorney Rhonda Quagliana made a plea to the jury on his behalf, asking for the lower end of the punishment scale.
"George was a 22-year-old guy immersed in a life of sports, sex and alcohol," Quagliana said. "No person is the sum of the worst judgment he has ever made."
Authorities accused Huguely of killing Love in May 2010. Love, a 22-year-old fellow Virginia student and also a lacrosse player, died from blunt force trauma, a medical examiner testified.
The accusations have clearly put a toll on Huguely. Once a swaggering college lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, Huguely is now shriveled to a rail-thin inmate after nearly two years behind bars. He had pleaded not guilty to Love's murder.
Some of the most damning evidence against Huguely came from the defendant himself. While Huguely declined to testify on his own behalf during the trial, prosecutors played a videotaped interview between police and Huguely recorded shortly after Love was found slain.
In the interview, Huguely admitted that he kicked in Love's door and that he shook her "a little bit." He also claimed that Love was "freaking out" and hit her own head against a wall.
He told authorities he never struck her but took her by the arms and shoulder. When told of her death during the interview, he repeatedly said he didn't do anything that would have killed her.
Prosecutors also stated that Huguely was jealous over another relationship Love had with another lacrosse player at the University of North Carolina. In an email shown to jurors, Huguely wrote: "When I found out about Mike Burns, I should have killed you."
Huguely's defense stated that Love didn't die from blunt force trauma, as the medical examiner has ruled. Instead, they claimed that Love was drunk and suffocated in her pillow.